Blog: Future Leaders might have ended, but my journey is just beginning

Hi there,

To understand the impact that the Future Leaders programme has had on me, I think it’s best to talk about the most challenging part – the pre-submission stage.

My Director shared the promo for the programme in a teamwide email. I glanced at it and thought – “wow! But 12 places, 12 places… I’m sure this programme will be better suited to others more skilled, more deserving, and those who are actually ‘leadership material'”. When I thought about it – being a young dyslexic mixed-race queer woman, didn’t really ring “LGcomms Future Leader”. Well, at least that’s what I thought. This response was partly down to my own insecurities but also the lack of representation I see in local government, especially at a leadership level.

How can one fathom becoming a leader if you don’t see people like you in those positions?

But this thought wasn’t new. I still think this way quite often. In fact, many of us do. In 2021, a survey of 1,000 UK professionals highlighted that 85% felt they suffered from imposter syndrome (90% women and 80% men). I wonder, have you ever experienced that feeling throughout your career?

After grappling with the idea of whether or not I should apply, I decided that I had nothing to lose. To my astonishment, I was offered an interview, and I was left flabbergasted when I received a place on the programme.

While imposter syndrome occasionally stopped by to greet me with a smirk and a jab, the programme gave me the tools to practice resilience to better manage that doubt. I also learnt about different types of leadership, how to challenge uncertainty, and persevere when things get tough. And what struck me most was learning how I can present in this sector – that it’s okay to take up space and be my authentic self in committee rooms where stakeholders don’t look like me.

When reflecting on my time in the programme, I smile because I started out thinking I wasn’t enough and ended with facilitating a workshop for my fellow Future Leaders. That was me, I did that, and I loved it. And what was even better was seeing those I appreciate and respect put so much effort into the session.

Do you know what’s funny? After the session, I learnt that how I compared myself to others in the programme was something they did too, but was not the way we thought about each other. No one was sitting there thinking – “why are they here?”, “Why are they on the programme?”. Instead, we all supported each other, and when I offered to lead the final workshop, everyone encouraged me to do so.

Sadly, the 2021 Future Leaders programme has ended, but my desire to be a leader has not. While representation in leadership is lacking, I’ve decided that I will use my experience and identity to encourage and empower others who may feel deterred because of their ability or how they identify.

Thanks for reading,

Jessica – the newly appointed member of the LGcomms Executive Committee.

P.s If you would like to know more about the programme, feel free to reach out. And if any of the above resonates with you and you’ve thought about applying but held off, all I ask is that you give it a go… What do you have to lose?

Jessica Fewkes (@jesssssikka) is a Senior Communications and Content Officer at Islington Council and a graduate of the 2021 Future Leaders cohort.


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